Metro Council approves ordinance to help bring Google Fiber to Louisville

Metro Council approves ordinance to help bring Google Fiber to Louisville

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - To install, or not to install.

That was the question before the Metro Council Thursday night as city leaders voted to remove roadblocks that could hinder efforts by Google to install lines accommodating its super-fast gigabit Internet service.

At a packed meeting, the council approved the measure 23-0.

Mayor Greg Fischer applauded the move, saying in a release: "Tonight's vote puts Louisville one step closer toward becoming a Google Fiber city - and lays the groundwork for expansion of gigabit services by other providers. This was also an affirmative vote to grow the economy and jobs."

The ordinance, which was amended and pushed by councilman Bill Hollander, made it so that if a new company, like Google, wanted to install a new line on an existing pole, they could move the existing lines on it instead of those companies, like AT&T and Time Warner moving it themselves.

"I've received more communication in favor of this ordinance than anything since I've been on council," Hollander said. "It just makes the existing process faster."

Time Warner and AT&T had multiple concerns. Back in January, AT&T recommended new language in the ordinance dealing with unions. The company said Thursday it has concerns that by taking away work from its employees and just having one company do all of the work, there could be major union contract issues.

AT&T said in a statement it is planning on adding one gigabit per second speed to Louisville soon, which would rival those that Google is bringing.

Michael Pedelty, a Time Warner spokesperson, said in an interview the new ordinance could be dangerous and hurt customers.

"We really want to get all the people who have an interest together so we can work out a process that's fair and doesn't harm customers," Pedelty said. "You have the potential to create outages and other issues that impact customer services."

In September, local leaders said the tech giant had agreed to keep Louisville near the top of the list of cities vying for the coveted service that could provide internet speeds of at least 20 times greater than normal broadband.

The city and Google have been talking about utility permits and other construction-related red tape, and a Google spokesman told WAVE 3 News on Monday that the process "will take time."

The company released a statement on the vote, saying: "We believe the best way to produce a streamlined process that is fair and protects the interests of customers is to gather all stakeholders – those who own the poles and those who wish to attach to them – and create a workable solution".

Stacey Griggs runs Eltoro, a local tech company, and spoke Thursday night in favor of Google Fiber.

"I want to see businesses locate here. We've got advantages with low cost of labor, low cost of housing, low cost of office real estate, but fiber is definitely something that's a disadvantage for Louisville right now," Griggs said.

He said Kentucky ranks last in the nation in terms of internet speeds while prices are still high. He hopes competition can fix both issues.

"Regrettably, we don't have very fast internet and our internet, while it's not very fast, is very expensive today," Griggs said.

Tech groups encouraged supporters to show up in force at the meeting and promoted the hashtag #PlugLouIn for use on social media.

Google declined to comment on Thursday night's vote.

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